Currently | The Shortest Day of the Year

by Kim on December 21, 2014 · 10 comments

currently december 21 2014

Briefly | It has been an eventful week! A new restaurant opened in town (this is a huge deal for a town our size), work was very stressful, and we had a plumbing issue in our basement. Our landlord is coming to look at it again today… hopefully it’s an easy fix.

Time and Place | 8:30 a.m. on my comfy chair in the living room. My office is unusually chilly this morning.

Eating and Drinking |  Black tea and homemade chocolate chip cookies, the breakfast of champions.

Reading | Since fall tv is on hiatus, I’ve spent a ton of time reading — and my books finished this week reflect that! Continuing on last week’s Laura Vanderkam/time and productivity binge, I finished What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, a collect of three shorter pieces she wrote looking at best tips for maximizing your morning, your weekend, and your time at work. All these ideas are dovetailing nicely into what, I think, will be my One Little Word for 2015 (my 2014 word was “curate”) — more on that after the new year.

On the fiction side, I finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, a really beautiful book about family, honesty and identity, framed by the challenges of being a mixed race family in the late 1970s. I had so many moments where I just felt heartbroken for these characters and the way their personal anxieties were hurting the people they love most — exactly like what real families do. And finally, I started in on my Christmas comfort reads with a reread of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (the American title is The Golden Compass).

Watching | Last night, the boyfriend and I watched The One I Love, a weird little indie movie with Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss. It was really a fun movie to watch,if you ignore the fact that the way they try to explain all the weirdness makes absolutely no sense.

Cooking | I was busy in the kitchen yesterday — lasagna, chocolate chip cookies, and sugar cookie dough for cutout cookies today. It was fun!

Blogging | Last week I shared my favorite fiction of 2014. This week I’ll have my favorite nonfiction of 2015 post up, then I’m taking a little blogging break for the holidays.

Promoting | I really like the way Jenny (Reading the End) describes her experience of trying to read more diversely, specifically how it affects her book-finding habits. This is what I hoped to say in my post on this subject, just much more clearly than I managed.

Pondering | I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to throw in my bag for my trip home for Christmas. Book friend Rebecca Schinsky offered this formula for travel book packing:

Although we’re driving and space isn’t really an issue, I’m still trying to limit the number of books I stuff in my suitcase. So far I have The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (absorbing novels, second and third in a trilogy), The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi (audio), and The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum (essays). I’ll probably grab at least one more book, probably nonfiction, but I don’t quite know what yet.

Hating and Loving | I hate that there is so little sunlight today — the sunrise was at 8:01 a.m. and the sunset will be at 4:42 p.m. where I live — but I’m glad that we’re now up the upswing to longer days.

Loving | A new Mexican restaurant opened in town (this is a huge deal), so I went out for dinner and drinks with my boss on Monday night. They had the best margaritas, in many flavors.

Anticipating | The boyfriend and I, likely with Hannah in tow, are headed to my parents’ house for Christmas on Wednesday afternoon. His parents are joining us this year, so it’ll be a big, different celebration. I’m excited.

Happy Sunday! What are you reading today? What are your reading plans over the holiday?

{ 10 comments }

Favorite Fiction of 2014

by Kim on December 17, 2014 · 18 comments

Although the end of 2014 is still a couple of weeks away, I like to get my end of the year book lists written and posted before the holidays — by the time I get back from Christmas travel, I’m so busy thinking about the new year that it’s hard to get myself to go back.

First up, I’m sharing my favorite fiction reads of 2014. It’s important to note a few things about this list. First, it doesn’t include just books published in 2014, it’s pulled from all the books I read this year. However, now that I look closely, it seems that most of them actually were new releases this year… whatever!

Second, I don’t think these books are necessarily the best books of the year, they’re just the books that I loved most. And third, they’re listed in no particular order — I loved each of them nearly equally as much. With all those caveats off the table, on to the list!

favorite fiction 1

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – This inventive take on the post-apocalyptic novel grabbed me at the first page and didn’t let go. Reading straight through it during the fall Readathon is one of my top reading experiences of the year. (Review)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – I just finished this book a few days ago and can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a haunting look at how difficult it can be to communicate with the people we love, as well as a thoughtful look at the challenges facing a middle class, mixed-race family in the late 1970s. It was so good.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood – This is the first short story collection I’ve read in a long while that seemed to hit me perfectly. Atwood is a masterful storyteller and really infuses every piece in this collection with a sense of past and future. (Review)

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman – The Magicians trilogy is probably not for everyone, but it was a perfect trilogy for me. I loved the way this book concluded these stories and I’m excited to see what Grossman works on next.

favorite fiction 2

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman – This quiet novel, about a thirty-something bookstore owner named Tooly digging into her past, didn’t get as much love and I thought it might. The book alternates between three threads, sharing Tooly’s history and exploring how she got to where she is. I read this one over my birthday weekend in July and loved it.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – This is another final book in a trilogy, this one a young adult fantasy set in a world much like Imperial Russia. It has a whip-smart, sarcastic, challenging main character and a bunch of vivid supporting cast members. It’s such a fun series. (Review)

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – I loved the way this book felt like three stories in one, held together by a distinct and well-drawn main character. (Review)

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona StaplesSaga is one of the strangest most wonderful comic book series I’m struggling to describe the plot, so I’ll send you to Wikipedia and just say that this is so good and you should start reading it now.

Whew! It really was a wonderful year in fiction reading. I’ll be back at the beginning of next week with my list of top nonfiction for the year, sneaking that list in just before the holidays begin.

What was the best novel you read this year?

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Currently | Catching Up

December 14, 2014 Currently

Briefly | I missed checking in the last two Sundays because I was at my parents house — first for Thanksgiving, then for a volunteering event and my mom’s annual Christmas party. I thought about blogging from the road, but figured I could just catch up when I get back. Consider this three weeks of […]

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#AMonthofFaves: My Backlist TV Binges

December 11, 2014 Personal

A Month of Favorites is a December-long celebration hosted by Andi (Estella’s Revenge), Tanya (Girl XOXO) and T (Traveling with T) to highlight the best bookish and non-bookish experiences throughout the year. I haven’t really been participating up until now, but the topic today — open for five favorite of anything — was too tempting […]

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Looking at ‘What Stays in Vegas’ and Your Personal Data

December 9, 2014 Book Review

In addition to writing about books here at the blog, I’m also lucky enough to do some freelance reviewing. Most of it is for The Cap Times, a weekly news site in Madison, Wisconsin. I interned at the paper when I was in grad school and continued to do some writing about books when I lived […]

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Reviewletts: ‘Station Eleven’ and ‘The Paying Guests’

December 4, 2014 Book Review

One of the unexpected benefits of slowing down my blogging pace this year is that I’ve only been reviewing books that I really feel compelled to talk about. Today I’ve got two books that I want to shout about from the rooftops and that, I’m almost certain, will make my favorite fiction of the year […]

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November 2014 Reading Wrap Up and a Look to December

December 2, 2014 Monthly Review

I know that pretty much everyone says this, but seriously, how can it be December already? I honestly can’t account for where the time has gone, although I feel like it’s been a generally good year. But December? Seriously? I can’t get my head around it. November was a busy month, with work, with life, […]

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Books in My Bag: Thanksgiving Edition

November 26, 2014 Book List

Later this afternoon, as soon as we can both get off work, the boyfriend and I heading back to my parents’ house in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving. My family has a pretty average Thanksgiving celebration — turkey and all the fixings, plus football on tv and long afternoon naps. My sister and I might head out […]

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Nonfiction November: Old Books and New Books

November 24, 2014 Communities

Oh, November, You’ve gone so quickly. I’m sad about that, since talking about nonfiction all month has been so fun. The host for our final week of Nonfiction November is Katie (Doing Dewey). The purpose of this week is to look back on the month and share some of the books that caught your attention: New to […]

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Currently | “Warm” Weather and Book Mail

November 23, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | About 8:30 a.m. at my desk, nothing special here. Eating and Drinking |  Black tea. Reading | I had another slow reading week. I finished Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand yesterday morning, but that’s it. I haven’t decided what I want to read next, but I got several good choices in the mail this week: The Unspeakable by […]

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